Paul McCartney dreamed the melody one night as he slept in the home of his then girlfriend’s family. When he woke, he rushed to a piano to play it so he wouldn’t forget. For weeks, he obsessed that he had plagiarized the melody unintentionally. He asked everyone in the business if they’d heard it before. Once he was positive it was really his, he sank his teeth into it.
He had the melody—he knew it was haunting—but he had no words, so for months he and Lennon called it “Scrambled Eggs” and the opening line went—“Scrambled Eggs/Oh my baby how I love your legs.” Later, McCartney realized the perfect fit of the word “Yesterday” and how easy the ending “a” would be to rhyme. He pieced it and patched it together until he arrived at lines of what I believe are some of the sweetest lyrics ever penned.
I’ve loved the song since I was little. Not too many years ago, though, I heard Ray Charles’s cover and now I only want to hear his interpretation. Did Ray have the just right voice to cover a British band’s straightforward ballad? Uh uh. Nope. (The video of Ray requires that you hit play and then click “Watch on YouTube.” You have to do it…do it…do it…I’m serious.)
What he had, though, was more heart . . . more heartache . . . than McCartney. I weep when I hear him. Listen to him hold that note before he starts the last verse. He had that troubled past of his, those regrets he mourned, those women he loved, those cards he was forced to play, those brushes with death and the law, and, man, Yesterday, became transcendent when it started in Ray’s heart and brushed over Ray’s vocal chords. He knew what it meant to long for Yesterday. McCartney? Eh, he’s brilliant, but at the time he wrote the song, he just needed an easy “a” to rhyme. (Feel free to argue, McCartney lovers, because I’m not married to this opinion. You could probably change my mind.)
Laura, why are you being deliberately obtuse?
Haha . . . because I’m thinking about why it is so difficult for us to let go of the past and the regret and the idea that things would be better if we could just go back to the way they were yesterday. Darn our human selves!
Hear me. This idea is particularly meaningful at this stage in your lives when it comes to break-ups. Why is it so hard to end a relationship? Why do we often feel like giving up and giving in and falling back into comfortable habits instead of sticking it out?
I think if we could draw a break-up, it would look like Tom Hanks’s character from Castaway, in that little raft, trying to clear the breakers. He knew if he could get on the other side of those nasty waves that wanted to drown him and drag him back to where he started, that the seas would be calmer. But the breakers throw their weight around and take the things that strengthen you—Wilson! They took Wilson!
I was never good with break-ups. I think, partly, this was due to the good-girl syndrome. Don’t get me wrong, being a good girl, being the “least of these,” is biblical and right, but not when it puts you in physical, spiritual, and emotional jeopardy.
In college, I dated a guy who was nice enough but completely wrong for me. I knew this after the first couple of dates but I’d had no experience with relationships—neither making them nor breaking them. Before I realized what was happening, this boy and I became known as a couple, and comfortable apathy set in. And I was too sweet and too timid to speak up.
When I tried to rock the boat, to leave like I knew I should, the breakers would pull me under and spit me out in the same place over and over. There were power struggles and fights and I felt so emotionally manipulated that I often didn’t know if it was him or me causing the problems.
And the times I did make a break, I’d feel the sting of nostalgia all over. Remember when you took me to that restaurant . . . remember when you gave me that bracelet . . . remember how you looked when we saw that band for the first time . . . when you picked me up for our first date . . . how you cried when you said you loved me? And, suddenly, yesterday didn’t look so bad and troubles didn’t seem so big. So when he knocked on the door wanting to get back together, it was easy to say okay.
And for a good ten minutes, I’d feel a rush of relief. Then the dread would set back in because I knew I had to fight the stupid breakers again.
Nostalgia will do that to you if you let it. It will steal your power and your clear head. It will rewrite history, change perception, shine that flattering, fuzzy light on all the scenes from your past, and then punch you in the stomach.
When you find yourself so manipulated, remember this. If you’re dating the wrong person, the right person can’t ask you out. Nostalgia is powerful, but regret is stronger. Do you really want to miss out on the person God sees in your future? Because that’s pretty important . . . and truly life-changing.
Finally, I got to the point where even the fuzzy, sweet memories couldn’t trump the knowledge that there were guys waiting in the wings who had wanted to ask me out but couldn’t. I quickly came to regret that I’d let a relationship that never should have started become a habit and I’d missed out on some great opportunities.
Here’s the thing . . . I don’t care if you’re the one doing the dumping or the one being dumped, if the relationship is wrong, move on. Don’t dwell on pretty things he said or the virtual scrapbook you made. Don’t think about how she knows you better than anyone and her hair is so soft. Don’t do that to yourself. You deserve better. You deserve a relationship that is truly right for you. This other person is probably great. That’s why you said yes to that first date, after all. But the relationship, the combination of the two of you, with all the unique gifts and baggage you both bring, isn’t right.
If you’re there in that place right now, with your homemade paddle and your dreams, keep paddling. Keep forcing yourself up and over the big waves because when you get to open sea, the sky is limitless and your view becomes 360 degrees again. It’s so hard. I know it’s hard. I also know it’s possible and I know you can do it.
Don’t be afraid to float alone for a while because it’s in that place that you learn to stand and walk and run. You learn your own strength, independent of anyone else. And before you know it, you’ll pass another raft with someone who has been tested, too, and, man, is that good. That recognition of each other. That’s good stuff and I want that for each of you. Do you see these tears in my eyes? I want you to know that joy.